Photo by NYRA/Coglianese Photos/Lauren King
After watching in awe last Saturday as Runhappy scored an amazing victory in the King’s Bishop Stakes (gr. I) last Saturday at Saratoga, it’s clear that this lightly-raced son of Super Saver is an immensely talented horse. In fact, his performance was so dominating that it’s fair to wonder if he might be the best sprinter in the U.S., and the favorite to win the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) on October 31st at Keeneland.
After racing greenly in the first four starts of his career (breaking poorly on several occasions, rushing into contention too early, and drifting in and out through the homestretch), Runhappy was much more professional in the King’s Bishop, sprinting to the lead through fractions of :22.43, :44.54, and 1:08.17 before opening up in the homestretch to win by four lengths in the time of 1:20.54 for seven furlongs. To put this in perspective, that was 0.55 seconds faster than the talented older sprinter Private Zone ran while winning the Forego Stakes (gr. I) one race later on the card, and Runhappy’s remarkable time translated to a Beyer speed figure of 113, the highest figure earned by any sprinter in the country this year.
Given his blinding speed and the ability to carry it for seven furlongs (a furlong farther than the Breeders’ Cup Sprint), Runhappy would be a major contender for the Sprint even in a year filled with plenty of talented sprinters. But the way things are shaping up, Runhappy may not have to face the deepest field in the Breeders’ Cup. In terms of accomplishments, Private Zone is the leading sprinter thus far this year, but his connections are thinking of running him in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile instead, which would remove a key player from the Sprint. Rock Fall is another leading sprinter, having gone unbeaten in four starts this year while earning Beyers of 110, 109, and 106. Last time out, he won the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga by a nose over The Big Beast, but that was after tracking a very modest pace, and while The Big Beast is very talented, he was no match for Private Zone in the Forego. Secret Circle won the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Sprint and triumphed in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) last time out, but that was in March, and he hasn’t turned in a timed workout since then. Masochistic won three straight races to start the year, including the Triple Bend Stakes (gr. I), but hasn’t been facing the toughest company and was beaten fairly and squarely by Wild Dude in the six-furlong Bing Crosby Stakes (gr. I) after chasing a fast pace.
In other words, 2015 isn’t shaping up to be a banner year for the older horses in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, so the race could be ripe for conquest by a three-year-old. Runhappy’s 113 Beyer is three points higher than the second-best sprint figure earned this year, and best of all, plans call for the colt to target a start in Keeneland’s Phoenix Stakes (gr. III) on October 2nd as his final prep for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Getting experience over the track where the Breeders’ Cup will be held could prove invaluable, and with two months remaining until the championship race is held, Runhappy looks like the favorite to win.